It’s time once again for my biannual check-in with FC Dallas’ potential Academy signings.
If you’ve been with me for a time you know I used to call this the Potential Homegrown List but that’s no longer the case as the club is reluctant to sign teenage Homegrown deals.
It’s highly unlikely you would see a 15-year Bryan Reynolds-type signing again. Barring an extreme case, of course, never say never.
It’s not just that the current head coach doesn’t want kids who can’t help him now but the entire organization wants to funnel the teenagers through the North Texas SC pathway.
The first team wants Homegrowns like Alejandro Urzua who had a Next Pro hybrid deal first; college Homegrowns perhaps, like Julian Eyestone; an 18-year-old graduating the Academy with Euro clubs sniffing around, like Nolan Norris; or North Texas SC players moving up, like Tomas Pondeca.
So instead of straight Homegrown deals, you should see a mix of hybrid deals (1-2 seasons NTX then Homegrown at FCD) or straight Next Pro deals with a once in a blue moon Homegrowns.
Off the List!
There have been some changes from this summer’s list as players moved off for various reasons (listed by their ranking last summer).
1. Julian Eyestone – Went to Duke and is now on my potential College Homegrown List.
2. Diego Hernandez – Went to Furman and red-shirted. He may someday be on the college list.
3. Diego Pepi – Signed with North Texas SC.
5. Malachi Molina – Signed with North Texas SC.
6. Nayrobi Vargas – No longer with the FC Dallas organization.
Potential Winter 23-24 FCD Academy Signing List
Time is a BIG factor here. The next Leo Messi might be an FCD U12 but he won’t be on this list till he’s old enough to sign.
1. Anthony Ramirez – Wing/10, 2005 (Previously #4)
With everyone moving off the list Ramirez is back to #1. He’s been a Mexico and US Youth international from U15 all the way to U19.
I’ve been talking about this player for a few years. He’s a false-wing or free-8 like Alan Velasco. This year he’s mostly playing for North Texas SC as an amateur (14 games, 7 starts, 2 goals, 2 assists). I know of no college commitments.
But, I am now 100% convinced that he will NOT sign with the organization.
In the last few months, FC Dallas has signed multiple players who play his position…
Enes Sali – 17-year-old U22-initiative Canadian/Romanian first team signing (reported 3 mil euro buy).
Tomas Pondeca – Signed from NTX to the first team. A better Free-8 than a wing.
Leo Orejarena – 15-year-old US U17 from Barca USA signed to NTX in November and FCD acquired his Homegrown rights from Chicago Fire.
Gabriel Mendonca – 16-year-old, US-born, Brazil-raised, free-8 from Flamengo’s Academy. Not on a contract but FCD reportedly has a sell-on owed to Flamengo.
FCD passed on NTX’s Hope Avayevu who right now is better than Ramirez albeit 3 years older.
Because of all that… I now don’t think Ramirez will get a Homegrown offer. Maybe a straight North Texas Next Pro offer? But I bet he passes on that and heads to a Mexican club when he graduates high school in May.
If I was being brutal with myself, all the above means I should take him off this list. But I don’t care, I think the kid is a baller. I’m leaving him on.
Also, his hair is amazing.
2. Gabriel Mendonca – 10/8, 2007 (New to the Club)
As I mentioned above, Mendonca is US-born but was raised in Brazil. This lefty plays as a free-8 for the U17s.
It’s not just that he came up through the Flamengo system and was their captain that got him on this list. It’s that he’s been the dominant force in the FCD U17s since coming here often scoring goals out of midfield.
Add in the reports that FCD has a sell-on fee for him even though he’s just an Academy player and it gets interesting.
He joined FCD this summer, so by July-ish of 2024 he will be Homegrown eligible (by my understanding of all the rules). Keep an eye on this one.
3. Jared Salazar – Wing/10, 2006. (Previously #8)
The talented lefty came up through the Academy as a 10 but mostly plays wing these days. Salazar can also play as a free-8 but still needs defensive work to play inside at the higher level.
Salazar was one of the leaders for the FC Dallas U17s last year on their run to the GA Cup Final. He played a handful of games with North Texas last year (6 games, 2 starts, 1 assist).
He’s signed to play at Portland University this fall but I think he might be in line for a North Texas Next Pro contract offer. Would he pass on Portland for a non-MLS NTX deal?
4. Luke Shreiner – Center Back, 2006 (Previously Unranked)
Shreiner moved onto my radar, not when he joined the FCD Academy from Dallas Texans (2021-22 season I believe), but as he grew into his height. As his physical profile matured over the last year and a half he forced his way rapidly up my potential ranks and he’s now about 6 foot 2 or 3. I particularly like his passing out of the back.
Shreiner represented FC Dallas in the MLS Next All-Star game in 2023. Shreiner made his NTX debut late last season (1 game played) and I expect him to play quite a bit of center back for Los Toritos this spring like Slade Starnes, Josh Ramsey, Will Baker, and Grady Easton before him.
He’s committed to Northwestern. A big spring might change his trajectory.
5. Nico Montoya – Goalkeeper, 2007 (Previously Unranked)
Keepers in general bloom late. But last season Montoya got the Eyestone/Carrera treatment and was invited to first-team training all summer. A single day or week in FCD camp is one thing, the entire summer is something else. So he’s firmly on that pro track.
He plays for the U17 and U19s, including with the 19s in UPSL a bit. While he’s been on the NTX bench already, I expect him to be one of the keepers you will see with playing time at North Texas SC this spring while he’s still a U17.
6. Caleb Swann – Linking 8, 2007. (Previously #7)
I call this kid Caleb “Minus One” Swann because he reads the game and reacts one second faster than everyone else. For me, he’s been the best 2007 in DFW for years. A complete two-way player at the linking 8 and game controller. He gives off strong Paxton Pomykal-type vibes.
I had expected Swann to climb into my top 5, but then FCD brought in the aforementioned Gabriel Mendonca. So Swann moved up this list less than he might have.
If he’s on track, he should debut with North Texas SC in 2024 sometime.
7. Daniel Baran – Free-8, 2006 (New to the Club)
The left-footed Baran joined FCD from Chicago Sockers this fall and I’m told he has an agent (it’s pro or bust for him, if true). Having watched all the UPSL games the U19s played this fall, he was the most dynamic and game-changing player game after game.
I would like to see him get some time at North Texas SC soon to test him at the next level. According to google, Baran doesn’t graduate high school till May of 2025 so there’s plenty of time for him to climb even higher but that attacking 8 spot is a tough one.
8. Michael Cortellessa – RB, 2007 (Previously #9)
Cortellessa is an exceptional soccer player, he can take up any spot on the field. I joke he’s Ryan Hollingshead 2.0 but that’s essentially true. A skilled and smart leader (often captain) with excellent game awareness. Since he plays outside back on either side he sometimes gets flipped – or even goes up to a higher age bracket – to shut down the opposition’s best attacker.
He’s been in several USYNTs over the last couple of years (U15, U16, U17) and has already committed to Harvard even though he’s class of 2025.
Like Swann, if he’s on track, we should see him make a North Texas SC debut sometime in 2024.
If you don’t see your favorite 2005 to 2007 player on this list don’t despair. Things can change quickly at this age as these teenagers mature into young men. There are boatloads more I could mention but I have to stop somewhere.
2008s and Younger
Undoubtedly, there will be younger kids currently at the Academy that will turn into pros or maybe even star players. But talking about them now is silly given the club’s current methodology.
But by this summer, we should see the first 2008s (currently U16s) and maybe even 2009s (currently U15s) start to sprinkle into the next version of this list depending on which of them get a taste at North Texas SC or plays up in the Academy.
I have my eye on a few already.